At a time when Google is placing more emphasis on the user, publishing content that meets the demands of both search bots and users is becoming more difficult. But then again, copywriting for SEO has never been easy, with new rules and ever-changing best-practice advice meaning there’s rarely a once-size-fits solution.
Whether you’re new to SEO copywriting or are reviewing the latest do’s and don’ts, our ultimate guide can teach you how to produce quality content that ranks. Use the links below to look around.
- What is SEO Copywriting and Why Does it Matter?
- How Much SEO Should a Copywriter Know?
- SEO Copywriting Guide: The 3 Stages of Writing for the Web
- Before You Start Writing
- The Copywriting Process
- Editing, Proofing and Reviewing Your Work
SEO copywriting is an important part of a website’s SEO strategy. It informs all content published online and is central to how well a site ranks in Google.
In the past, the criteria for writing effective web copy was black and white. There were tactics copywriters, webmasters and bloggers could rely on to appease Google and help pages rank.
But as search engine algorithms have moved towards prioritising unique, quality content, copywriting for SEO has become a much greater challenge. Now, user experience should take priority over pacifying Google bots, but not at the expense of a site’s SEO health.
The goalposts for writing optimised content may have widened, but this has made things more challenging from an SEO copywriting perspective. Now, a holistic approach factoring in readability, user experience and technical on-page ranking factors is needed to keep users and search engines happy.
This is a long-running debate in the copywriting community. While a basic understanding of SEO is a prerequisite for writing optimised content, Google’s shift towards prioritising user-centric pages means that learning the technical ins and outs isn’t essential.
With best-practice guidance changing with every Google update, it’s inconceivable for copywriters to know everything about technical SEO and stay abreast of changes. As touched on, technical ranking factors are no longer a one-size-fits solution, so a basic level of SEO knowledge shouldn’t be an obstacle in creating engaging and effective content.
Copywriting isn’t a case of sitting down and typing. Preparation is arguably more important than writing, and the same could be said of editing and proofing.
Below, we take a look at the 3 stages of SEO copywriting, offering practical tips for refining and optimising your work at every step.
Whether writing an article or populating a website with new content, preparation is key to optimised web copy. Here are a few things you consider before putting pen to paper.
Get to Know Your Audience
Great web copy should serve your audience, answer their questions and give them what they want. This is Google’s ethos too, so you can appeal to both it and your audience by making this a central focus of your content.
Of course, you need to know who your audience are (and not just who you’d like them to be). By gaining a deeper understanding of your users, you can develop content that not only boosts your site’s engagement, but also helps to attain conversions.
One of the best ways to use audience research to inform your content is to create a set of customer personas. These are profiles of your audience based on existing user data and market research, ultimately representing your ideal customers and their aspirations.
Our guide on how to create customer personas can help you gain a deeper understanding of your customers and users. These insights can influence your content and help you build TOV and brand guidelines that deliver a consistent user experience across all content channels.
Carry Out Keyword Research
Keywords remain a fundamental part of SEO copywriting. Targeting relevant keywords in your writing will add context to your pages to help them perform in Google SERPs.
If you’re populating a new website with content, you should start by listing the keywords you want the site to rank for in Google. For landing pages and product pages, these keywords should focus on your product offering and USPs, making it more likely that Google will match your products and services with user search intent.
When writing articles for a blog, it’s also a good idea to have in mind the keywords that the piece will focus on. The best-performing blogs directly answer user queries, so using keywords in H tags will add relevancy to your content and show Google that you’re offering genuine value to its users.
There are a number of tools you can use for keyword research, including several that are free to use. Ahrefs has compiled a comprehensive list of the best free keyword research tools; Answer the Public is one of our favourites from a copywriting perspective, allowing you to quickly expand your keyword list based on a seed term – perfect for building out blogs to answer user queries.
Consider the Structure of Your Content
At Banc, we use the SEMrush SEO Content Template to help inform the structure of blogs and articles. Based on a single parent keyword, this tool provides recommendations based on competitor analysis, giving you a list of semantically related terms that you can use to outrank competitor content.
On-page ranking factors like header tags and images make it possible to optimise your on-site content and blog articles by following a specific structure. SEO best practice dictates that some elements are more favourable to Google than others, so you should these insights to inform the structure of your content.
For example, say you’re writing a piece on SEO copywriting, like this one. You can insert ‘SEO copywriting’ into the SEO Content Template, and the tool will provide helpful insights that can inform your piece, including recommended word count, optimal H tags and a list of backlinks that you may want to try to acquire to promote and outreach your content.
Using a tool like the SEMrush SEO Content Template is a great way to ensure that your content will be competitive. Developing your structure before you start writing can also be really helpful, ensuring you cover all bases whilst ensuring your content is optimised based on relevant keywords.
Copywriting for SEO isn’t easy. Backlinko research shows that posts of around 1,800-2,000 words perform the best, while readability is now a major ranking factor. That means your site needs to publish long-form content of a high standard on a regular basis to guarantee organic performance – and that can be easier said than done.
Below, we provide a few tips – some technical, some not – on the copywriting process.
Prepare Your Document
There’s something daunting about an empty word document, the cursor flashing ominously and the wordcount creeping up at a snail’s pace. That’s why it’s a good idea to prepare your document before your start writing, so you stay focused on the task and break your work up into manageable chunks.
Begin by listing your section headings, highlighting these with the relevant H tags. Remember, these should contain relevant keywords which you discovered the research phase.
Next, annotate the document with comments so you’re always aware of what to write and where. For example, include a short comment in each section with links to any research or sources.
It can also be helpful to break the article up by its estimated wordcount. For example, if you’re hoping to cover 2,000 words, make a note of how many words that will be per section. This will not only help you to stay true to the structure of your piece, but will also make the work seem more manageable when you’re first getting started.
Check the Readability
As you write, be mindful of your target audience and how easy your content is to read. For most web copy, you should aim for a conversational tone that’s free from convolution, but this will, of course, depend on your target audience and topics.
If you’re not convinced by your work midway through, read it aloud to check its readability before running it through a digital writing tool, like Grammarly. Grammarly is free to use, unless you opt for advanced features, and will rank your writing based on correctness, clarity, engagement and delivery. You can also select different options based on the tone you want to achieve, and the tool will make recommendations based on this.
Checking the readability of your copy whilst writing may seem a laborious process, but it can help to shave time off the editing and proofing stage whilst also ensuring that you’re including keywords and getting your desired message across.
Take a Break and Keep Writing
Penning a 2,000-word article can be a challenging process. It can be difficult to keep your concentration while ensuring that the quality of your work doesn’t dip. The longer your piece, the longer it will take to write, which is why it can be so helpful to break things up beforehand and schedule regular breaks.
If you’re struggling to stay focused, take a break and come back. Good copywriting only happens when your mind is on the job, so don’t beat yourself up if you start to struggle after a couple of hours.
On the flipside, it’s sometimes better to continue writing even if you’re finding things difficult. Your mind will loosen up the more you write, and you’ll probably find that the next sentence comes to you more readily if you stick at it and start to get into a rhythm.
The work’s not done when you’ve typed your final full stop. Now, it’s time to edit and proofread your work, before reviewing its effectiveness from an SEO perspective.
Here are our tips on editing, proofing and reviewing your writing to ensure it’s optimised for the web.
Proofread Your Work
Don’t rely on Microsoft Word or Grammarly to proofread and spellcheck your work. While these tools can help put right any grammatical errors and mistakes, they’re not a foolproof way of assessing how your copy reads and where you can afford to make changes.
To guarantee accurate proofreading, we’d recommend printing a physical copy of your document before going at it with a red pen. Assessing it in this way will make it more likely to spot errors and help you get a feel for how it reads away from your computer screen.
When you’ve proofread the physical copy, take it back to the word processor version and make your changes. Then, put this version through Grammarly to triple-check its accuracy and make additional changes.
When you’re happy, have a colleague review the work and offer their suggestions. This will be a real test of how well your copy reads and if it achieves the objectives set out in the brief.
Review the Structure
During the proofreading stage, you should consider the structure of your piece. Does it follow a logical structure, with keyword-rich headings that add context and align with the topic?
Also, is the work broken up into bitesize paragraphs? At Banc, we try to make paragraphs no more than fifty words, with two sentences of up to 25 words each.
While this is only a rough guideline, structuring your copy in this way will maintain its readability and ensure it’s as engaging as possible for the reader.
Is it Optimised for SEO?
While Google’s most recent algorithms bolster the message that the user should come first, it’s still good practice to make sure your content is optimised, and that on-page ranking factors are considered.
As a rule of thumb, copy that’s optimised for SEO should contain the following:
- An optimised title that’s relevant to your target keywords, and no more than 60 characters in length.
- H2 and H3 tags that are semantically similar to the parent keyword
- An optimised wordcount that will ensure your content is competitive
- Internal links to other relevant guides and pages on your site
- External links to authoritative sites and pages that may add value for the user
- A CTA that leads users further down the conversion funnel, increasing engagement
- An optimised introduction that’s relevant to the topic and keyword, and that contains ‘fraggles’ or ‘jump to’ links that are intended to secure rich snippets and improve the user experience.
- An optimised meta description of no more than 160 characters.
If you need help checking how well optimised for SEO your copy is, there are tools out there that can check and review this for you. For example, if your site is hosted on WordPress, we’d recommend installing the Yoast SEO plugin. This provides real-time analysis of how optimised your content is, so you can quickly make changes that will bring greater organic value and performance to your published content.
Copywriting for SEO can bring tangible success for your brand, helping you win more traffic while boosting conversions. If you’re looking for help with your content marketing and copywriting strategy, the Banc team can help. Click here to find out about what we can offer or call us now on 0345 459 0558.